East Meck students win gold for state culinary competition, head to nationals

For the ninth consecutive year, East Mecklenburg High students won gold for their culinary and public-speaking prowess at the annual state Family, Career, Community Leaders of America competition this month.

Four students – one of whom was elected the N.C. FCCLA president – will go to San Antonio in July for the FCCLA National Leadership Conference.

John Gamble, a junior, and Rachel Jones, a senior, won gold at Johnson & Wales University for their preparation of wheat berry salad with oranges, cherries and pecans; sauteed chicken breast with mushroom sauce; sauteed cabbage; roasted fingerling potatoes; and chocolate bread pudding.

Gamble said he thought the pudding was their best weapon. “I practiced that every day for four or five months,” he said. (Schools receive a list of possible menus in the fall that might be chosen for the competition.)

Jones said she was proud of their final presentation and that the two worked hard for the win. They won scholarships as a prize, Gamble said: either one for $2,000 at the Culinary Institute of America or one for $1,000 at Johnson & Wales University. Both scholarships are renewable for four years.

Isabel Bedoya, a junior, won her second consecutive gold medal at the state competition for public speaking. She spoke about hospitality and gave a PowerPoint presentation on how she would interact with customers – and handle complaints – at her own business.

The three of them, accompanied by junior Bianca Withers-Stacks, who was elected N.C. FCCLA president, will compete in San Antonio against 52 other teams from across the country.

To raise money for the trip, East Mecklenburg’s culinary arts department is hosting a dinner, “Gold Feathers,” from 5 to 7 p.m. May 14. Menu items include Jones and Gamble’s award-winning dishes, among others, and tickets are $40. Those interested in attending can contact their teacher, Dale Richardson, at dale.richardson@cms.k12.nc.us.